Deputy President William Ruto on Wednesday, December 21, was the first guest on Citizen Television’s Events 2016 series, where he admitted that the Jubilee government, through its legislators, will on Thursday via a special sitting in Parliament amend the election laws to incorporate the use of manual system of voter registration and identification ahead of 2017 general election.
Ruto’s confession follows Tuesday’s Special Parliamentary Sitting, where the Opposition lawmakers thwarted efforts by Jubilee MPs to have election law amended.
On Wednesday, Deputy President William Ruto met Jubilee MPs ahead of Thursday, December 22, Special Parliamentary Sitting, ordering them to ensure that the election law is amended.
The Jubilee Party leadership told the legislators that Thursday’s Parliament special sitting should be a do-or-die session; that the election law must be amended so that there is an alternative to electronic voter registration and identification ahead of next year’s August 8 general election.
In a tense interview with Citizen Television’s Hussein Mohammed, the DP revealed why he insists on incorporation of manual system of voter registration and identification, despite the Opposition’s move to stop the amendment of election law, terming it “a move crafted by the government to create room for vote rigging in 2017 national polls”.
Below is a transcript of DP Ruto’s interview on Citizen TV:
HUSSEIN: Why did you meet Jubilee MPs to tell them that the election law has to be amended – and that Thursday’s Parliament special sitting should be a do-or-die session?
RUTO: We are a people who believe in the rule of law. And the rule of law dictates that citizens have a right – constitutionally – to elect a government every so often; and it is five years for that matter. And next year is going to be that time when Kenyans will exercise their democratic constitutional right to elect new leaders. And what is going on in Parliament is nothing out of the ordinary.
What happened, Hussein, there was negotiated document that went to Parliament. It was negotiated between Jubilee and CORD, right? The law was passed. Then a mechanism was set up (you know), where the IEBC – the implementers of the law – would sit down and review how the law is going to be implemented. As we talk today, the law that is in Parliament is not a Jubilee proposal, it is an IEBC proposal.
HUSSEIN: That is what the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) says…
RUTO: The IEBC has looked at the law and have said: ‘good people, if you want us to run the (general) election next year, you cannot predicate the constitutional right of a Kenyan to vote, a Kenyan waking up at 4am to go and queue. You cannot tell them when they arrive that because technology has failed, or because you don’t have network, you are going to be disenfranchised and you are not going to vote’.
HUSSEIN: First and foremost Your Excellency, the IEBC – and we get this from the JLAC of Parliament – that it is the IEBC that gave them these proposals. JLAC, because of what happened in Parliament yesterday (Tuesday, December 20) was not able to bring the hansard or evidence of the report because some committee members said they did not endorse such a report. Number Two: You started very well by saying that this was a negotiated document – from CORD and Jubilee. The least the CORD members you had were asking yesterday in Parliament is: if you are going to bring any amendments – because amendments were brought earlier, and they were stopped. And from the leadership of Jubilee and from the leadership of CORD, it was do not change anything – and that you agree – do not change anything and let everything go as it was agreed upon. Why would you change that now; why does it have to be done on the floor of the House? The least they are asking is why can’t you go back to negotiations?
RUTO: My friend, the law was negotiated, right? The law was passed, the President ascended to it. Once the law has (been) passed, it becomes a property of the institution that is supposed to run on the basis of that law. IEBC has come back and you know anybody telling us that they haven’t seen what IEBC has… I wish I knew you’d ask such a question; we have a letter from the IEBC… (Hussein interrupts with the question: ‘[Addressed] to who?’)
“To the Parliament,” the DP responds.
HUSSEIN: Was the letter addressed to Justice and Legal Affairs Committee or Jubilee? Because it seems now even when you are talking today (Wednesday, December 21) Honourable Duale called a press briefing some few days before this came to light. Jubilee talked about it. Where was IEBC when all this was happening? IEBC, for instance, has had five years in this country, knowing very well the elections are coming in August, 2018. Why raise this now?
RUTO: My friend, there is nothing out of the ordinary in amending a law that has been passed. There is nothing! In fact there are so many amendments sitting in Parliament of laws that have been passed that when it went to the institutions that are charged with implementing, they have seen gaps in the implementation. Let me put this straight: what is happening in Parliament, the IEBC has said: ‘if you want to implement this law, there are three things: Number One: our mobile operators have said there are areas that do not have networks. What are you going to tell Kenyans in Marsabit or Makueni or any other part of Kenya that have no network? That they are not going to vote? Number Two: They have said that there is a possibility – and these are gadgets that are made by human beings…’
It will be foolish, if I may use that word, for us to go to an election that says if technology fails, there is no election. All we are saying is we are going to run this election on the basis of technology. But, we are going to provide that in the event that an area does not have network or technology fails, I mean the mechanism will roll in. And the proposals on this law are coming from the IEBC.
HUSSEIN: Fair enough. If I may use the same word you have used, with all due respect to all the MPs that sat in that negotiated document, was it foolish for them to pass this, and not have an alternative? When they were doing these negotiations for a month? There is a reason why they passed this without an alternative for a manual system.
RUTO: It is said, it is only a fool who doesn’t change his mind. If you do something today and tomorrow you look at it and say it needs to be corrected, it doesn’t mean you are stupid. That means you are intelligent, it means you have looked at it again and you have said there is a problem that you need to close the gaps. And that is why there are provisions for amending whatever laws you passed because it is anticipated.
HUSSEIN: Whose fault is this at the end of the day? We all knew when Jubilee started their term, when you started your term as the Deputy President that on August 8, 2017 we’ll have an election. We all knew that we wanted to go the electronic way. How is it that eight months to the general election IEBC now says: ‘guys, there is a problem.’ How is that Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) eight months to the general election says: ‘guys, there is a problem’. Why didn’t the government prioritise this in terms of connectivity? Where were we the last four or five years? Why didn’t the government prioritise this? And the CA has Universal Service fund, this is for connecting networks and it is the operating networks that contribute to this? By June this year, they had KSh3 billion. That is already a head start. Annually, mobile phone operators contribute to that fund. So, for the last four years, why wasn’t something done is these areas that do not have connectivity?
RUTO: There you go. You are already blaming matters of IEBC on government. Because ultimately when the chips are down and the election goes wrong next year, nobody would remember that IEBC is independent. Everybody would remember there was a government, and that was the Jubilee government, and that is why we are saying we are going to do what is right, and get the laws that will make sure that we have an election next year. Whoever you are trying to blame is irrelevant. What we need to do is prepare for an election next year…
The problem of network is not something that we are going to solve in one day. For instance, there is network in Mochongoi, but it is 2G network, it cannot send data. Are we going to predicate the election of Kenya, are we going to say that a Kenyan who woke up at 4am to go elect a candidate of his choice won’t vote because technology has failed them? No! And you see, the process of expanding network is a process which is ongoing. Technology nonetheless can still fail even if there is network coverage in the whole country.
The Deputy President maintained that Jubilee and CORD would not go back on the negotiation table to discuss how the rivaling camps would reach an amicable solution on election law, and says the only way to end this impasse is debate in Parliament.
“It has to be done in the floor of the house. We have to amend the law following the legal process, following the Constitutional process and we persuade our friends if they have an argument, let them go to the floor of the house, let them argue their case, let us pass the laws, let us prepare the country for an election,” said DP William Ruto.
This comes even as IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba called on political players from government and Opposition to “sit together and build consensus to avoid putting the country at risk”.
The CA Director General Francis Wangusi, on the other hand, expressed concern over the country’s network coverage, noting that not all areas in Kenya are connected to the internet.
Events 2016 hash tag trended on social media, with Kenyans expressing intense opinions to the interview.
Several were convinced with the DP’s illustration of the Jubilee government’s development projects, such as the SGR, health programmes; but questioned commitment of the government in fight against graft.